When I first bought Yakuza 0 my only knowledge of the game series consisted of crazy characters and zany mini-games, but what I ended up discovering was a deep narrative that wouldn’t allow me to forget it.
Yakuza 0 starts out a little rough around the edges. To be honest, I was questioning a lot of the praise I had heard about the game for the first hour or two. The beginning of the game is filled with numerous cutscene varieties (full cinematic scenes, character grunts with readable text, in game graphics with full voice, and a strange comic book style still scene style).
The strange choices are a little jarring at first, but they become normal and without second though as the game goes on.
One of the first thing I notices when I began walking around the small open world city, was the sheer amount of detail. It isn’t graphically stunning or anything (after all, it is a ported PS3 game), but every shop on the street feels like it could really be a shop. The small convenience stores you entered are cluttered and covered in merchandise. It really puts some of the modern PS4 games to shame when it comes to details.
Yakuza 0’s story is extremely gripping, and the characters are some of the most memorable in any of the recent games I’ve played.
The game has two main, playable characters. Your first character, Kiryu Kazuma, is learning his waythrough the Yakuza when he gets framed for a murder he didn’t commit. You also play as Majima Goro, a slick, intimidating ex-Yakuza forced to run a cabaret club in hopes to earn enough money to buy his way back into the family. He eventually is given the opportunity to pay for his possible readmission, but instead he must take a life of an unknown civilian.
Both stories start off strong and end even stronger, but what makes Yakuza 0 so remarkable is how even though you can spend hours doing fun minigames in between the serious mission, it never looses pace or tone.
The voice acting can be attributed to a large part of this consistent tone. Yakuza 0 has some of the best voice acting in recent memory. And even though it is in Japanese with English subtitles, the voice actors do an amazing job at conveying emotion through the language barrier.
Combat in Yakuza 0 is solid but could be considered lack-luster to some. While there is a useful skill tree, only some of the moves within it felt actually useful in fights. Many of them seemed like fun things to do when you were tired of fighting the local punks who chased you down on the street just to get their asses kicked.
There are three fighting styles (four if you take the time to unlock the secret dragon style) that you can use for each of the characters. Kiryu’s styles are much more normal compared to Majima’s. While Kiryu lends his hands to the slow/heavy style, average style, and fast/light style, Majima has a thug style, a breakdancing style, and a baseball bat style.
However, I eventually got tired of fighting the random street encounters and would avoid them at almost all cost as the fighting in the
streets felt like a distraction from the other fun things I could do. I mean, why fight 3 guys wearing leather jackets when I could be fighting a mafia boss or discoing the night away.
On the subject of disco, Yakuza 0 is almost unbelievably jam-packed with fun side activities. As someone who is new to the Yakuza franchise, I was excited to try every game I could. Even some of the mini games have fun side quests in them.
The side quests in Yakuza 0 are some of the best side quests I’ve played. They aren’t Witcher 3 level, but they somehow are extremely cheesy and funny yet also endearing and sweet. I didn’t play as many as I wanted in my playthrough, but every single side story I played I enjoyed thoroughly.
I ended up spending about 41 hours in Yakuza 0 when my time was up, but I still had some of the other game modes to try out (free roaming doing mini games, and an arena challenge mode) post completion of the story. I could have easily spent more than double the hours if I had done more of the in depth mini games or side quests.
I went into Yakuza 0 with high hopes from the small amount I had seen or read of the game, and I left with my already high expectations being
surpassed on almost every level.